KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Saturday, December 30, 2006

An Eye for an Eye

Saddam Hussein is dead. Does that fix anything? No, it does not.

Yes, he tortured and killed a lot of people, but the United States helped put him in power years ago. After no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush needed another excuse for having started a war there. Hussein, no longer doing our bidding, was convenient. We were in Iraq to free its citizens from a madman, Bush said.

Now we have had a hand in Hussein's hanging, showing that we are still the barbaric nation many think us to be. No matter how horrific a person's crimes, what right has any other person to take a criminal's life? Life is sacred.

Once again, I am ashamed of my country. When will sanity and morality—not religious zealotry—return?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Cold Cometh

I can just about hear the heavy footfalls of the dreaded family cold approaching and sense its finger reaching out to tap me on the shoulder, letting me know I'm next. Is that achiness? If it isn't, it soon will be.

We've had a lovely Christmas; the boys and my husband are off from school and work this week. Lots of snuggling and story-reading and game-playing. I've had to keep working, except for Christmas day, because I have deadlines to meet, but even I could get in on the fun.

Then Jared, 5, came down with the cold: high temperature, stuffy head, coughing, aches all over. He's much better today, but it's his brother's turn. Neil, 12, is lying on the couch, hot but wanting to be covered up. And his cough is more like a bark.

I want some magic spell to ward off this thing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Phlegmsy Teaching Method

My kindergartner's journey to readerhood and his current copious nasal congestion reminds me of being in first grade in 1964–1965, when I was learning to read.

Mrs. Gray, the teacher, had all of us students standing up, looking at the letters of the alphabet displayed above the blackboard. Working with one letter at a time, she asked us to say whatever words came to our minds that began with the sound made by that letter. When we got to the letter F, I, being cursed then with constant and prodigious upper respiratory infections, of course said the word phlegm, because the production of phlegm and what to do with it when one inadvertently coughed some up were topics I pondered often. The teacher stared at me and said, "Flem isn't a word, dear." I knew she was wrong, that there was such a word, however it was spelled.

I never trusted her again. She returned my mistrust when, later in the year, my classmates and I were reading aloud to one another in small groups while she checked in on each group from time to time. In my group, it was my turn to read. I read much more material than anyone else in any other group had done in the allotted time. She did not believe that I had done so and insisted that I was lying.

I had many good teachers in the years that followed, but I never did forgive that teacher. To this day, when I see or think of the word phlegm, I remember mean old Mrs. Gray, who would not believe a child.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Politics of Germs in Schools

The 2006–2007 school year is turning out to be a very germy one in my household, with Jared being in kindergarten and apparently having signed up for two courses called Making Every Germ Welcome in Your Body and Don't Be Selfish—Share Your Germs.

If any germ has come within 30 miles of him, he's brought it home and taken it in and loved it well. He's made it his best buddy and invited it to share meals and hugs and kisses with us. He's been so generous a host that today was the eleventh day of school—not in a row but scattered here and there—that he's missed since school started in September. He's had a series of colds and viruses, accompanied by heavy-duty coughing and nose snot and earaches and sneezing. It's the ritual that every kindergartner goes through, building up the immune system by pushing it to its limits. I've been through this twice before, when his sister, now 23, and his brother, now 12, started school, so I know the drill.

Today he was home with the widely dreaded pinkeye (aka conjunctivitis). Why is it that public schools want you to send your barking, gooey-nosed kid to school to spread the germs around, but the minute you utter the word pinkeye they beg you to keep the kid home? Pinkeye and rhinoviruses are both pretty damn contagious.

Last week, the school principal mailed us a letter, probably because the school computers alert her whenever a child has a certain amount of absences within a specific time period, requesting that we call her to discuss "this problem" of Jared's absences. Yes, I'd called the school nurse every morning that he was sick. Yes, I'd sent in a note to his teacher explaining his absence each time he returned to school. No one called or sent a note home to complain. Yet the principal's letter used incendiary language:

... Since it is a New York State requirement for children to attend school, and not doing so could be considered educational neglect, it is imperative that you contact me ...

Neglect? Hello? You so have the wrong family. Why imply neglect where there may not be any, especially if you haven't bothered to check out the situation until now? Save that kind of language for when you're not getting the kind of response you should be from parents.

If you'd just look in the school files or talk to the school social worker or the school psychologist, you'd know just how wrong you have it. We're the family with another son in middle school with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the family that worked quite closely over the years with the social worker and psychologist at your school to put together the educational environment that our older son needed back in elementary school. We're the parents who recently wrote you to thank your teachers and other education professionals for all they'd done over the years for that middle-school son; you were happy to get that letter ... and the newest edition of the CHADD Educator's Manual that we donated to your staff library. Before you throw around terms such as neglect, pick up the phone and talk to me. Return my phone call. Find out who we are and what we're about and how we parent.

When I called and asked for the principal, someone took a message because the principal was attending a schoolwide concert. An assistant later returned my call. I explained Jared's series of illnesses and asked whether the school would rather have had him there, spreading his germs and not feeling well enough to learn, but all I got for my efforts was interrupted. "Oh, is that what your call was about. Okay. Thank you. Good-bye. Have a nice weekend." I never heard from the principal; no one else from the school has spoken or written to me this week about the issue.

This all leaves me wondering whether the school cares more about having enough little bodies in the classrooms each day to earn its share of federal education dollars than about having each of those little bodies be healthy. Or is it that the school must groom the children so they'll one day be adult workers who go in to the office even when they're miserably sick, just so they'll be seen as responsible employees?

Updated 11:30 a.m., 12/22/06: I snail-mailed the principal a letter that was a modified version of the above. She called me this morning. She said

  1. That she took full responsibility for her assistant cutting me off and not listening to what I had to say about my son's absences from kindergarten. She apologized.

  2. That the letter she'd mailed to me was a form letter and wasn't meant to offend.

  3. That my letter to her had made her realize that she needs to change the language of the form letter.


May Your Days Be Merry ...

My husband (Ed) and I decorate our home for Christmas inside and out each year, though because he's the physically adventurous one of us, he does all of the outdoor stuff himself:

This blue spruce is 45 feet tall.MMMMMMMMMMThe blue spruce viewed from under our eaves

Ed uses our 40-foot professional-grade ladder to climb the 45-foot blue spruce in our front yard and decorate it for Christmas late each November or early each December. People from all over the neighborhood drive by our house each night to see the tree. They've come to expect it because he's been doing it now for about 12 years. He also decorates our house's soffits with pine roping entwined with strings of lights. The house used to be covered with dark barn-red cedar shake shingles (above left), which absorbed a lot of the light from the decorations. This fall, we had some renovations done, including adding a nice wooden front landing and railings (above right), which we've decorated with more of the pine roping.

New front stairs with pine roping and lightsMMMMMMMMMM Front view of our house, ready for Christmas

The gorgeous light moss green siding now covering our house doesn't suck in all of the color from the Christmas lights, making the house look much more welcoming than it used to. We like to sit on our new landing at night and gaze at the colored lights on the house, the white lights on the spruce, and the stars in the sky. It's peaceful and gives us the sense that there is still goodness and light in the world.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Candidate Conundrum

If Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2008, I won't vote for her, even though she's my senator. She's not a real New Yorker—never has been one. She moved to the state only to run for a high-profile office from which she could leap to a presidential race. She doesn't really get that much done, but she's always ready for photo ops. And she's a hawk.

If Barack Obama runs, I'll have a lot of researching to do, because I'll want to choose between him and John Edwards, whose camp has just leaked that he's going to run. I like a lot of Edwards's positions, but I'd prefer to vote for a black, Asian, Latino, or female (of any ethnic group) candidate just because it's way past time someone other than a white male was leading the United States.

I'll just have go with whoever my research tells me would make the best leader. It's been so damn long since we've had one.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Warning: Perimenopausal Woman Ahead

Hot flashIt's Friday, I have too much work to do, and I haven't even gotten any Christmas cards done. Plus I'm PMSing and having a hot flash. I'll sign off for now before I get really snarly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Teaching Children Violence and Killing

No war toysOne long-term method for decreasing hostility, aggression, and war worldwide is child’s play. Literally.

Ever stopped to think about what’s going on when parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends give children toy guns, soldier costumes, and GI Joe action figures? They’re giving children permission to play at fighting and killing. Let that sink in.

These children may hear their parents say that life is sacred. But how sacred is it really when adults give them the tools to pretend to stab a playmate, to hit, kill? They’re too young to comprehend that some wounds last a lifetime, that death is permanent.

We say, “James, stop hitting your sister!” And then when it’s James’s birthday, we give him a toy sword to play with, in effect saying, Have fun stabbing and killing people!

We say, “Keisha, stop punching your brother!” And then as a special treat for her good behavior, we give her a pop-up clown punching bag, in effect saying, Practice your hitting skills. Hit people where it counts!

We say, “Aaron, don't be a bully.” And then as a gift, we give him a toy rifle, in effect saying, You can make people do anything you want them to by threatening to shoot them.

Children learn what they are taught, whether through overt lessons or through tacit example. They use the tools they are given. This holiday season—and all year through—please give them the lifelong gift of respect for human life. Speak to them of peace with your words and with your actions, with what you give them and what you don’t give them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Car Totaled, Husband Not ... Yet

Dead Toyota, driver's side, frontMy husband, Ed, killed our ancient (1992) Toyota Tercel—and our budget—tonight. (Well, technically, it's already tomorrow, as it's after midnight.)

Ed's fine, as are the other people involved in the three-car pileup he caused. I'm glad he's okay. But I sure am angry, because we don't have funds to replace the Toyota, which means there will likely be days that I'm stuck here at home without a car. And it's likely that our vehicle insurance rates will go up.

Destroyed front end and grillHe was driving home early this evening from a quick check of a molar by the periodontist (long story) and would've been home in time for us to head up to the elementary school for our kindergartner's parent–teacher conference, when we'd have gotten Jared's first-ever report card. While driving 45 to 55 mph down the local four-lane highway, he took his eyes off to road to look at the dashboard while he changed radio stations. The cars ahead of him had been moving along quickly enough when he was driving, but they slowed down while he wasn't looking. He rear-ended a taxicab, which rear-ended a Beemer ($$$). The cab looked barely touched; that's not surprising, because those old Fords are tanks. The Beemer had minor damage to its rear bumper.

Passenger side, frontWe now have no car, because our minivan's in the shop. It's already been there a couple of days; the mechanics can't yet figure out what's up with the brakes—some stupid sensor thing that Dodge Caravans have. Ed will have to drive one of his parents' cars the long schlep from our home to work in Southampton. I will have to hope my in-laws aren't away from home long in their second car, because if either of our sons needs to be picked up from school because of illness, I, as the self-employed spouse, get pickup duty.

Ed scraped up one finger. His chest also hit the steering wheel, which was bent all the way up to the dashboard. There weren't any airbags in the car because it's too old to have had them. He said the seat belts (one lap belt and one across-the-shoulder belt) didn't seem to stop him. I wanted him to go to the hospital to get his chest and back checked out; he didn't.

That might be because surviving the ride home from the accident site was exhausting enough without having to wait all night in a hospital emergency department. I sent his dad, A, to pick him up, knowing that the Toyota was no longer drivable and that Ed really didn't need me yelling at him. A, now 71, has lost a good part of his hearing but won't admit it. He drives slower than a inchworm climbs a tree. As A drove his car excruciatingly slowly out of the parking lot where everyone had been interviewed by a police officer, he nearly cut off a large box truck that he probably didn't see. Ed saw the truck driver have to swerve around A's car and into the road shoulder to avoid hitting the car. Wanting to get home in one piece, Ed asked A to pull the car over, without telling A why, and Ed drove them home. A's driving judgment and hearing have been getting worse and worse in the last few years. I don't relish the thought of starting a family feud by saying that I no longer want A driving my sons anywhere, but I'd rather have a feud than dead sons.

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos. Ed took them with his cell phone, which is no substitute for a digital camera with accommodation for nighttime shots.)

Ed's damn lucky he's cute. It's hard to yell at somebody when they look all sweet and huggable. But if he wakes up ugly tomorrow morning, he'd better watch out!

Updated 11:10 a.m., 12/12/06: Ed did wake up still cute, so he managed to get out the door to work this morning without my yelling at him. I'm so glad he's okay. ... And I'm not perfect either, but that's just between you and me, okay?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Abusive World Power? Yup, That's Us

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is retiring and now has the courage to say what he should have said before the start of the war in Iraq:
In a farewell speech on U.S. soil today, ... Annan plans to deliver a tough critique of President Bush's policies. He will accuse the administration of trying to secure the United States from terrorism in part by dominating other nations through force, committing what he termed human rights abuses and taking military action without broad international support.
Funny ... we little people have been saying this for years, and only now is everyone else waking up and tentatively speaking up. It's frightening how ignorant the American people can let themselves be.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Happiness Blogging

I have absolutely no complaints today. ... Oh, all right, Iraq's burning while Bush fiddles, and the fiddler has shredded much of what was good about America. But other than that, I'm happy:

  • It's acting like December outside, the temperature hovering at 21 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun's streaming quite brightly through the windows. I'm indoors and bundled up, warmed further by a good cup of Chinese tea.

  • My youngest has the day off from kindergarten today because the teachers are doing all of their parent–teacher conferences, so I get to kiss his soft little cheeks as often as I like, between all of the paper construction projects he's doing.

  • I'm editing another short story written by my only local client; he sent me an e-mail this morning about my editing of another of his stories:
Thanks so much for the kind words. I could not make a [business] deal big enough today to overcome the feeling I have from your [praise of my writing].

  • It's almost the weekend, when I'll go to this rousing concert.

  • And my middle son and husband will be home all weekend. My family members really are my favorite people.

What are you happy about?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Conservative Jews Do Right by Gays and Lesbians

Sometimes I think I'm on the wrong team.

If Conservative Jews can decide it's okay to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis and to recognize same-sex relationships, why can't my beloved Presbyterian Church USA? If it did, I'd seriously consider going back to church.

Married by Clergy or by the State?

Yesterday, I posted about an ad campaign to convince New Jersey residents to support same-sex marriage because civil unions are a separate-but-inequal alternative to marriage. But should states even be in the business of regulating who can marry whom?

No, says my colleague Don, a gay Virginian. Another of our colleagues feels that couples of any sex should be legally joined by civil unions and that people who want to be married should look to their religious institutions for that. Don says:
This echoes my opinion. I would go even further and say any couple of whatever combination of sex or sexes should be allowed to marry civilly. The law ought to fully recognize the distinction between a civil marriage ceremony and a religious marriage ceremony. Gay people have never asked that [religious organizations] be mandated to marry them. Gay people have asked that the state be compelled to marry them.

Then there are those who say that gay people would sue [religious organizations] for discrimination if they refused to marry them. I would no more expect that gay people would demand that a [religious organization] marry them than I would expect that they would demand that a [religious organization] be compelled to offer communion or the blessing of that [organization] to anyone who asked for it. What the state does and what the church does are and ought to be totally distinct.

Not to allow gay couples the advantages of marriage—using precisely that word—is to deny them the advantages given to straight couples, and that is discrimination.

This issue was never as high on my agenda as it has been on the agenda of some other gay people. But by gum, when politicians begin to use fear and discrimination to persuade unthinking voters that it is right to diddle with state constitutions and the U.S. Constitution in order to deny instead of to guarantee rights, it gets my dander up. The issue is not now and has never been about religion or what [religious organizations] might elect to do.

It saddens me to think that a few generations from now, Virginia's voters will have to go to all the trouble of undoing the damage done to the state's citizens by its voters last month. Those voters 50 years from now, I am sure, will look back on the 2006 amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage the same way we now look back on Loving et ux. v. Virginia and wonder, "What the heck were they thinking?"
Don's argument makes perfect sense to me. If only all the homophobes would dare to truly think what damage they're doing ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Terrific Marriage-Equality Ad

Think Equal adThe New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that the state's legislature now must choose between allowing civil unions or same-sex marriage, and the blog Blue Jersey has put together a wonderful ad that clearly shows why civil unions are a separate-but-inequal alternative to marriage that will create a class of second-class citizens. You can help make a difference by donating to the ad campaign; the bloggers themselves put up the funds for production costs. Read a Jersey newspaper feature about the ad and its creators here.

Updated 8:12 p.m., 12/6/06: Read this too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My New Gig: Author's Muse

Now, this is cool.

I sent my fairly new client—an author of short stories—a KOK Edit coffee mug and T-shirt. He now tells me that he wears the T-shirt and fills up the mug when it's his writing time every day—makes him feel as if I'm standing there encouraging him to write well.

I've never been a muse before. I think I like it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Symphonic Works from a Contemporary Composer

I'm excited to say that I know the wife of a composer of syphonic works, and that he has his first CD out! I can't wait till the CD I ordered shows up.

The composer is Ron Brown, a Canadian whose hauntingly beautiful Christmas hymn I featured in a post here about a year ago. I'll let Ron tell you about his new CD:
After two years of promises, I have finally taken the plunge and prepared a CD for sale on the Internet. It is just over an hour in length and contains four works for symphony orchestra:

"Memories of the Outaouais" is a 12 section tone poem in tribute to that area of Western Quebec where I lived off and on for about 30 years.

"The S. S. Newfoundland: 1914" is a tribute to the 78 men and boys killed when their captain left them stranded on an ice floe during a storm.

Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 were written during the last 18 months.
Please treat yourself this holiday season and pick up one of Ron's CDs. And read some of his fascinating essays on music.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Resisting an Immoral War

Despite what the evening news on the major networks would have us believe, a good number of U.S. soldiers are refusing to fight the criminal war in Iraq. Here is one soldier's story:
While stationed in Iraq, Ivan Brobeck was assigned to security at checkpoints in the city of Mahmudiyah and Fallujah. While in Iraq he witnessed the abuse of Iraqi detainees and the killing of civilians by the United States military. Brobeck completed his seven-month tour in Iraq with his unit and returned to the United States in October 2004. Upon returning from Iraq, he suffered symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and went UA (Unauthorized Absence) in March 2005. In April 2005 Ivan Brobeck fled to Canada to seek sanctuary. On Election Day 2006, Brobeck planned to return to the United States and turn himself in to the custody of the Marines.
Read more soldiers' stories here. And then tell me why we're fighting in Iraq.

Scatological Humor Among Docs

In searching PubMed to verify a reference to a medical journal article cited in an article on how to treat hemorrhoids, I came across an article title that proves that physicians do indeed have a sense of humor:
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. 1988 Apr;31(4):303–5.

"Piles of Defeat: Napoleon at Waterloo"

Welling DR, Wolff BG, Dozois RR. Section of Colon and Rectal Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Major events of history have frequently turned on seemingly trivial matters. One such situation involves Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo. Napoleon was not feeling well on the day of the battle of Waterloo, despite fighting well at Ligny, a few days before the last, dramatic June 18 battle. There is considerable indication that Napoleon was bothered by very painful thrombosed hemorrhoids. Did this affect his generalship that day? What is the evidence that Napoleon was afflicted with thrombosed hemorrhoids? What contribution could this factor have made to the French defeat at Waterloo?
Why, yes, my work is fun!

The Exciting World of Publishing

This video of how a book is bound will have college grads rushing to get into publishing and bookbinding. My days as a freelance copyeditor go just like that.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Brain Orgasm

Ooh, I love it when this happens!

I'm doing a substantive ESL (English as a second language) edit of a medical journal article written by a Japanese orthopedic surgeon. I was just able to condense two of his long, unwieldy, verbose sentences into one graceful, complex sentence. And I've worked with this author several times, enough to know that he'll be very pleased.

Yessss! I'm in the zone!

What I Give Thanks For, 2006 Edition

My brother, Wally, in a turkey costume for his kindergarten play in 1971This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for many people and things, in addition to those I listed in last year’s Thanksgiving post.
  • My first grandchild-to-be, created by my daughter, Rebecca, and my son-in-law, Li. I know that the baby will be beautiful and will be raised and loved well by his or her parents.

  • That moderation has returned to the U.S. federal government through the 2006 midterm elections. It’s not good when the wishes of huge groups of people are ignored by their government. Here’s hoping that my 2007 Thanksgiving post can include gratitude that U.S. foreign policy is headed back toward sanity and human decency.

  • That my husband, Ed, continues to love me as much as I love him and keeps striving to grow with me after 14 years together. He’s intelligent, intellectually stimulating, fun, and an artisan, and he has a heart of gold.

  • Rebecca and Li, who have just started out on their life journey together and are good for each other

  • My sons, Neil and Jared, whose hearts and minds unfold daily in delightful ways

  • My new friend, Misao

  • My newly renovated home, now warmer and more attractive

  • Health care insurance, for as long as it remains affordable for my family

  • Clients, old and new, both for the income they bring me and for the intellectual stimulation that editing their writing brings me

Monday, November 20, 2006

No O.J. Book

Well, well, well. O.J. Simpson's book won't be sold after all, nor will his interview by his publisher, Judith Regan, be broadcast by FOX Broadcasting Company.

It's probably too much to hope that common sense and decency prevailed in the O.J. book brouhaha. It's much more likely that Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp., which owns both HarperCollins (the publishing house at which ReganBooks is an imprint) and FOX, deduced from the massive criticism coming his way that both HarperCollins and Fox would lose customers or viewers and thus lots of income because of its connection with the lurid murder case.

Whatever the reason for the project's withdrawal, I'm glad it's gone. Ick. Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, I should say here that HarperCollins is one of my clients.

Superb Christmas Music

If you live on New York's Long Island, in Connecticut, or in New Jersey, you won't want to miss gorgeous holiday music sung by the New Century Singers (listen to a snippet here).

New Century Singers concert on December 10: Glory Hallelu!

The New Century Singers' holiday concert will be at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, December 10, at First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Main and South Streets in Port Jefferson, New York. Advance tickets are $20 each; at the door, tickets are $25. You can order tickets at the New Century Singers web site or by calling 631-473-5426.

The group's lush vocals—contemporary, folk music, and classical pieces—will put you in a holiday mood. I'm one of their biggest fans and have attended many of their concerts. I like them so much I even show up to listen to their practice sessions! The group is made up of members and friends of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community on Long Island and has performed all over the place, including New York City's Carnegie Hall.

Renovation Photos

I'm so excited! My home looks like new on the outside. The bulk of the outside work is done. We just need a new steel door with a window in it for the back alcove and new gutters all around (coming this week), and my husband Ed will have to reface the doors to our "barn" and garden house. Here's the "before" shot of the front of the house, when it was decorated for Halloween, and plenty of "after" shots, taken with Ed's cell phone camera. If you notice any waviness in the photos, it's not in the siding; it's funkiness from resizing the photos. Clicking on them will open up larger versions that don't have any waviness.

The old red cedar shake shingles, before renovation

The house before renovation, wearing its old red cedar shake shingles; the bushes wore Halloween decorations, including cobwebs

Front of house with siding on

Front of house with siding, which looks grayish here but is a beautiful soft moss green

Another front view

Another front view

The new front stairs

The new front stairs: These take the place of the narrow, crumbling, old cement stairs. There's so much more room now, even though the new stairs are only about 2 to 3 feet wider. No more feeling as if I'm going to fall off the stoop when the boys crowd me while I'm trying to unlock the front door!

Side view of new front stairs

Side view of the new front stairs, which are made from pressure-treated wood so that they're rot-resistant. We won't paint them but will let them weather to a pretty silver.

Back alcove and stairs

The redone tiny alcove (used as a holding room for recyclables and bags of garbage) and stairs at the back of the house

Another view of the back alcove and stairs

Another view of the back alcove and stairs; the alcove door is on order

North side of the house

The north side of the house. The latticework, like the new front stairs, is made of pressure-treated wood. It's been in place for several years and has already weathered to a nice silver

South side of the house

This is the south side of the house, which houses our wood shop. When Ed had his own cabinetmaking business, the shop was where he built furniture and cabinets.

The barn

This is our "barn," where, when Ed had his business, he would spray lacquer on furniture and cabinets. Now, it's mostly for storage, but Ed does use it when he makes furniture for us. The red Formica on the doors has to be replaced by the light green Formica we bought to match the siding. The barn used to be covered with red cedar shingles, just like the house.

The garden house

Even our tiny garden house (what most people call a tool shed) got new siding, and after 30-plus years, it got a new roof. It still needs its dark door refaced. You can see our vegetable garden's fence running the length of the left side of the photo. The ancient, rotting boat at the right was Ed's first outboard, a little wooden dory from the late 1950s that Ed restored; he bought it when he was 15 years old. The boat, now retired, is older than Ed is. It's been replaced by the At Last! and must be moved to the town dump.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Clients Don't Warm Up to Robotic Freelancers

Maybe I'm deluded; maybe I just don't get it. But my approach has worked quite well for me for nearly 12 years of freelancing, so maybe I do know something.

About this time every year, colleagues on the editing- and freelance-related e-mail lists I subscribe to start discussing whether and how to send holiday or annual greeting cards to clients.

The arguments go something like this:

  • Don't send cards; it'll be seen as crass marketing or sucking up.

  • Do send cards; they remind clients of your existence.

  • If you do send cards, make 'em all business—no emotions and nothing personal, please.

  • If you do send cards, it's okay if they're only imprinted with your greeting, company name, and message; you don't have to hand-write a note, because who has the time?

  • Send cards. They're not crass. They remind clients of your existence, you get a chance to thank them for their business, and you get a chance to build on your relationship with them.
If you haven't already guessed, my strategy is the latter.

I view holiday cards (mine are "Happy New Year" cards) as something to personalize. (I also enclose my annual end-of-the-year one-page newsletter.) Yes, I have my cards imprinted with a short holiday greeting and my business name, but I hand-write a short note on all of them. Here is a sample, with names changed:
  • Dr. Toyoda, it was been a pleasure editing your papers in 2006. You have a way of presenting your research that more than communicates the facts; you draw your readers in. [For an author of medical journal articles]

  • Patricia, thanks so much for all those projects in 2006. But thanks even more for sharing your sense of humor and graciousness. [For a managing editor at a publishing house]

  • Jana, I very much enjoyed working with you in 2006. Your memoir was quite touching, and I'll long remember it. [For an author who went on to self-publish her book]
Now, these messages avoid talking about my private life and the client's private life, which is an issue that seems to concern some stiff-necked freelancers. But they're still personal and friendly. And every single time, such messages delight my clients and help inspire loyalty in them. They want to keep doing business with a copyeditor who both does top-notch work and sees something admirable in them and in their work. They want to do business with someone who cares. And I've communicated that caring in just one or two sentences; it doesn't require that much extra time.

So go ahead—send out personalized greeting cards to your clients. They'll like it, and you'll get repeat customers.

I Don't Buy It

Well, publisher Judith Regan talks a good talk, but I don't think I buy what she says is her reason for publishing O.J. Simpson's book If I Did It:
Regan said the book was a way to undo the “criminal injustice system” that let her own abuser go free.

She said she was abused while in her 20s by a man “who could charm anyone” and with whom she had a child. “And then he knocked me out, with a blow to my head, and sent me to the hospital,” she said. She said police initially didn’t believe her story.

“I made the decision to publish this book, and to sit face to face with the killer, because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth, to confess their sins, to do penance and to amend their lives,” she said. ...
I do believe that Regan suffered domestic abuse, but I can't believe that that is her only reason for publishing Simpson's pseudo–tell-all. Even if her HarperCollins imprint, ReganBooks, sees no money from this book (which I find hard to believe), publishing it sure garners a lot of publicity.

Yes, publishing is a business, and I've been in that business for more than 20 years. But there are some things that should never see the light of a bookstore, and O.J.'s book is one of them. It's not a matter of freedom of the press or free speech but of good taste and human decency.

See update.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Daughter the Flutist

The whole family went to Stony Brook University's Staller Center for the Arts last night to hear my daughter, Becky (the social-work-master's-degree student, full-time employee, newlywed, and mother-to-be—exhausted yet?), perform in the flute section of the SBU Wind Ensemble. It was fun, and the musicians were great. Here's a still of the whole ensemble:

Stony Brook University Wind Ensemble

Wood Shop Helper

I've written here about the renovation my home is undergoing. The last thing that will be done is the complete replacement of the upstairs bathroom. For that, My Husband the Master Cabinetmakertm is building the vanity (the cabinet to go under the sink) and the medicine cabinet. Our two sons, Neil (almost 12) and Jared (5), are being really helpful, doing actual cabinetmaking chores. But sometimes, they're just kids:

Jared, wood shop helper

Jared decided to take a break
after working hard on the vanity.
He sat down into an old empty
spackle bucket.

Master Cabinetmaker Update

On Election Day, I posted shots of one of the projects My Husband the Master Cabinetmakertm was working on, which included making corbels.

To satisfy your curiosity, I present here one of the finished corbels:

Finished corbel

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Woman Kicked Off Plane for Breastfeeding

A New Hampshire woman has filed a complaint against two airlines because she was kicked off a plane for breastfeeding and refusing to cover herself up with a blanket given to her by a flight attendant. Idiot airlines!

Americans are such prudes. And ignorant. If they knew anything about breastfeeding, they'd know that not much breast shows at all when a woman is breastfeeding her child. A breastfeeding woman isn't providing a peep show.

Puritanical morons!

Updated 11/17/06, 7:13 p.m.: Good! The flight attendant who harrassed the breastfeeding woman has been discplined, according to the airline.

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